On April 18, 2015, the English-Speaking Union, along with its partner the Middle School Public Debate Program, welcomed 282 students from 31 schools in six states to the Hackley School in Tarryton, NY. These students participated in 236 rounds of debate. Teams from the Hackley School and Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, VA advanced to the Final Championship Debate where they sparred over the topic: The US should pay ransom for hostages.
The Championship Tournament was the culmination of a year-long initiative sponsored by the English Speaking Union in New York and New Jersey, and is part of the national Middle School Public Debate Program. Attending the tournament were public, charter and independent schools from inter-scholastic Leagues in New York City, Monmouth County, NJ, Washington, DC and New Orleans. Over 100 teachers and parents joined the students on April 18th to serve as volunteer judges.
Throughout the day-long event, students debated a range of national and international topics, including: The US should approve the release of genetically-modified insects; It is unjust to have the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial in Boston; Political advertising does more good than harm; The Obama community college plan will do more harm than good; and Repeal the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution!
The Hackley team of Philip Bonanno, Robert Patterson, and Tucker Wilke, coached by their teacher Stephen Fitzpatrick, took home the first place trophy in a split-decision. Chris Yang, Neel Mandapati and Sumanth Patil, led by coach Lasika Rao, from Rachel Carson Middle School placed second. Kartik Chugh, also of Rachel Carson Middle School, won the coveted Gavel as the day's top individual speaker.
The Middle School Public Debate Program, founded at Claremont McKenna College, is the world's largest program for classroom and contest debating for middle school students, designed to teach public speaking, critical thinking, listening and debating. The ESU and MSPDP work together with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members to form sustainable debating leagues and classroom oral literacy initiatives.